State education leaders are joining with Google to offer schools a new, free way to email, teach and work with students, Google announced Wednesday.
Under the agreement, schools may use Google Apps for Education which includes email, chat, calendar, video, website development, document and spreadsheet capabilities. The Utah Education Network will help train school employees in how to use the tools.
Utah is now one of nine states to offer statewide support for the apps, according to Google.
"It's a way for teachers and students and parents to collaborate using the web without having to use expensive HTML tools," said Mark Peterson, spokesman for the State Office of Education. "It's not costing us anything."
Google Apps for Education are different from the free Google tools available to individuals in that they have more storage, no advertising and districts can use their own domain names, said Tim Drinan, a Google spokesman. It is something Google charges businesses for but offers at no charge to schools and universities, Drinan said.
Some Utah school districts, including Washington County, Alpine, Davis and Nebo, are already using the apps.
District officials say the tools are saving them money. Charlie Roberts, Washington County School District technology and media director, said the switch has saved his district more than $100,000, according to a Google blog news release. He said teachers have been using the apps to schedule parent-teacher conferences, create Google Forms for student elections and set up class websites.
Drinan said teachers can also use the apps to edit documents alongside students online, in real time. Or they can give quizzes and tests online with Google Forms, which can automatically send student answers into a spreadsheet to allow for quick grading.
Rhonda Bromley, Alpine District spokeswoman, said the district recently finished switching to Google's email program, called Gmail. She said the district, which is the largest in the state, expects to save about $50,000 a year through the switch. Bromley said the district is excited to use Google Docs, Gmail and Google Calendar and may use the programs to help teachers create websites in the future, among other things.
"We'll have the ability to do a lot more things than we did," Bromley said.